Administration nominates NPS director, fills other posts

The Biden Administration has nominated Charles “Chuck” Sams III as the director of the National Park Service.

If confirmed, Sams would be the first Native American to hold that post. Sams is an enrolled member, Cayuse and Walla Walla, of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

Sams has worked in government and at conservation nonprofit organizations for over 25 years, including positions with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Trust for Public Land and the Columbia Slough Watershed Council. He currently serves as a governor-appointed council member to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

Sams’ nomination must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before he can take office. The last Senate-confirmed director of the agency was Jonathan Jarvis, who was confirmed in 2009 and left the position in 2017 when the Trump administration took office. The Trump administration did not nominate an NPS director during its four-year term.

Now, eight months into the Biden administration, vacancies in the leadership of the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture remain. Earlier this summer, Shannon Estenoz was confirmed as Interior’s assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks. Tracy Stone-Manning was nominated in April to lead the Bureau of Land Management; her nomination awaits Senate approval.

A nominee for director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not yet been announced. Martha Williams, the principal deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the former director of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, is acting as the USFWS director until the director’s position is filled. A nominee for director of the U.S. Geological Service has not been announced yet, either.

At USDA, the nomination of Robert Bonnie for undersecretary of Agriculture for farm programs and conservation also awaits Senate confirmation. A new U.S. Forest Service chief recently took the helm at that agency; Randy Moore is a career USFS employee who has spent 14 years as regional forester for the Pacific Southwest.

Header Image: Charles Sams, shown here at the 2011 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award has been nominated to lead to National Park Service. Credit: Sam Beebe